“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” everyone always says this but do most people actually follow that saying? Studies have shown that although many people use this term in daily language, most people do not actually believe this phrase. So be weary of this, the way that you present yourself to an admissions committee is very important. Your application is your book cover and you will be judged by your application whether or not you like it. Make sure that your application accurately represents who you are to the best of your ability because you will be judged based on your application. Let’s take a look at some red flags that would give an admissions committee doubts about your application.
Low grades and low MCAT
This situation can happen to anyone and honestly does not mean that it is over for you. It does mean that things will be harder for you but it is not impossible. This will definitely give an admissions committee doubt because in order to get through medical school you have to go through a lot academically. A medical school does not want to bet on a student that has trouble doing well in school or a standardized exam because students in medical schools have to do well in their classes and well on standardized exams. It would be hard to explain yourself with your application but a good way to let medical schools know that you are serious, even with low grades and MCAT, is to find a way to speak out to admissions committee members through your application.
For example, you may have heard from a friend that a book is not good but if something intrigues you in the title of the book, then you are more likely to pursue it and maybe open up the cover and read the summary. The same goes for your application, intrigue the admissions committee member with your personal statement. Point directly to the medical school and tell them why you would be perfect at their medical school even with a low GPA or low MCAT.
Poor grade (D or F) in a class without an explanation
A poor grade in a class warrants an explanation…period. It does not matter if the class was not one of your premed requirements and instead was something you took electively. If you do poorly in a class, such as getting a D or F, then you need to explain that somewhere on your application. That is not something you could just let go and expect for it to not make a difference on your application. You do not want one grade to hold you back from getting in so be up front and explain what happened. Without an explanation, an admissions committee member may assume the worst. Take responsibility for your actions and own up to them. You might be surprised how responsive people are when you take ownership.
No shadowing or obvious commitment to pursuing Medicine
I have never understood why premed students will try to apply to medical schools without any shadowing experience or experience in heath care. I remember I met an undergrad student a couple of years ago who was very concerned about his chances of getting into medical school. I agreed to help him and advised him. He emailed me his resume and there were a bunch of extracurricular activities but I did not see a single experience with a Physician. If you are pursuing Medicine and trying to go to medical school, you should try and have some experience with a doctor. It does not matter which specialty, all that matters is that you have had that exposure. The reasoning behind this is that admissions committee members want to make sure that you are trying to go to medical school for the right reasons. If you have not taken the time to shadow and make sure that this is really what you want to do then why should an admissions committee member give you the benefit of the doubt? In order to show your commitment to this field, you do have to show that you have thought about this as a career realistically.
Why is it so important for medical schools to have premed students matriculate that are actually committed to the field of Medicine? Because when you get accepted to medical school, contrary to what you might think, a lot of work and money is put into helping you accomplish your dream. If you end up dropping out, it does not do the school any good. Although you did pay for your tuition and what not, you graduating from the medical school is the most important thing. Medical schools do not want their students to not complete all four years.
Trying to do too many things at once
Many times premed students will start off college and will want to try to do a lot of different activities or try too many majors. Sometimes this spreads you too thin and makes it seem that you are not sure about what you want to do with your life. It is better to dedicate yourself to a couple of activities that you really enjoy and invest your time in those. If you actually are interested in a lot of different activities and would like to pursue those that is completely fine but try not to do an activity just for the purpose of doing an activity. Many students believe that in order to impress admissions committee members they need to do a bunch of really cool things. This is not true at all. One or two experiences that YOU think are awesome will come across as awesome to them also.
I have also seen a lot of students who think that by doing a bunch of activities, it will make up for a low GPA or low MCAT. I think what you need to always remember is that there is not a lot that can replace a low GPA and low MCAT so don’t give those two things little attention because all of your attention is focused on being the President of 10 different clubs. Academics is number one in your level of importance so don’t forget that. Clubs and extracurriculars will make up for a slightly low GPA or low MCAT but not a 2.5 GPA and a 20 MCAT score. The best advice someone gave to me was the following, “focus on Academics and when you get good at doing well in school- which might take a semester or two- then supplement with extracurriculars and research.” The way that I think about it is when you are baking a cake or cookies you slowly add ingredients because if you add all the eggs, butter, and sugar all at once it takes a while to mix everything. Instead, if you add ingredients slowly it is easier to mix the batch. So instead of juggling your classes and signing up for 5 extracurriculars and research, it would be better to slowly add things to your schedule so it is easier for you to adjust to your schedule.
Grades decreasing as time goes on
Medical schools love seeing improvement. I’m not sure what it is but they all love it when students improve. I remember it was my senior of undergrad and I was specifically waiting to hear back from one school. I had already interviewed and it was past the 8 weeks time that they said it would take to hear back from them. I had already decided that I wanted to make sure I did really well during my senior year because I thought that would show medical schools that I am committed to doing well. After I got my Fall semester grades back that winter, I immediately sent them an updated transcript. They sent me an email saying they had received my transcript. Within a week, I had my acceptance letter in the mail. Although I did generally well in my classes during undergrad, that updated transcript showed all A’s which showed the admissions committee team that I was serious about my dream to pursue medical school. I will not ever know for sure if that was what helped push my application into the “accept” pile but the timing was all very perfect.
So even if you have done poorly during your first year of undergrad but you have started to improve significantly, do not give up. Continue to improve and show admissions teams that even with a hurdle you are able to get up and try again even harder. Medicine is not about being perfect. Medicine is about making mistakes but learning from those mistakes and improving yourself. This is why improvement is something medical schools believe to be a positive aspect of an applicant. They want to make sure that even if you do not do well on an exam that you will not give up.